The caller display on the Blackberry aids a peaceful life. Every person who calls gets added to the contacts and there is the opportunity to allow calls to go to the answering service, to be dealt with at a suitable moment. Sometimes it is simply not possible to answer – a man once complained he could get no answer in the middle of a Sunday morning; other times there needs to be a quick decision whether or not to answer. Driving a country road after nine last night, ‘Unknown number’ appeared on the screen; usually a cue for a conversation with the bishop.
Pulling into a gateway, turning off the John Creedon programme on RTE radio, I pushed the green button
‘Mr Poulton’, came a voice definitely not that of the bishop.
‘Fr Eamonn gave me your number. I am working with Vatican television and we are making an item on Irish monasticism. We wondered if you might meet with us next Monday at the site of the old monastery beside your church and answer a few questions to camera about the history of the place’.
‘OK. He must have detected a degree of hesitancy in my response.
‘It wouldn’t be anything difficult. We’ll use the landscape across the valley as a backdrop. Just a few simple questions’.
We agreed a time.
There can’t be many television viewers in the Vatican, certainly not many interested in seeing a field and a few stone ruins in the Irish midlands. Presumably the stuff is for broadcast on the Internet or on satellite channels. There then occurred the thought that the grass is quite long.
The monastic site is in the care of the Office of Public Works or some similar body; the grounds of the monastic site surrounding our 19th Century church are maintained by the county council.
Phoning a member of the congregation, I asked about the grass. ‘It was cut last week’, he replied.
‘The week before, I think’, I said.
‘Maybe you’re right’.
‘We wouldn’t want the Pope to think we don’t cut the grass’.
‘Certainly not’, he said, ‘I’ll make some phone calls’.
A while later he sent a text saying the council men would be out at 8.30 in the morning and that he was surprised at how much influence the Pope had.
It is odd. How did they know we hadn’t made the whole thing up? Did they make any attempt at verification of the story? What if the camera crew had been coming from a different country? Would they have cut the grass for CBS from the United States or ABC from Australia? Would they have cut the grass if the programme had been for one of the smaller countries in Eastern Europe?
If the grass can be cut for the visit of a camera crew, then what about a bus party, or a group of enthusiastic archaeologists? Can you imagine a similar response for them?
It is very odd. Perhaps mention of the Pope might work in other contexts.